Former Cardinal Jonathan Banal back in basketball after overcoming lupus

Apr 11, 2019
PHOTO: Reuben Terrado

“YOU can’t put a good man down.”

That's how you can define Jonathan Banal right now.

A former player for the Mapua Cardinals, Banal is now looking to follow in the footsteps of his father Koy and uncle Joel as he mentors the Philippine Navy Lady Sailors team in the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL).

But before accepting the head coaching job, Banal had to overcome a life-and-death situation last year after being diagnosed with lupus.

Banal said he initially suffered from tuberculosis while recovering from an injury, but sustained blood clots in March of 2018. At that time, he was already part of the coaching staff of Marinerong Pilipino in the PBA D-League.

“TB na ‘yung diagnosis. Nag-TB meds ako for two months tapos biglang nag-blood clot na pala ako. Sinugod ako sa St. Luke’s [hospital], doon ako na-diagnose na lupus pala with blood clotting,” said Banal in an interview with

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What followed was the difficult process as he was in the intensive care unit for one week. He described his situation then as 'fifty-fifty.'

Fortunately, Banal had the support of his wife, family, and friends, and even had regular visits from his former Mapua teammates to draw strength from to recover from the illness.

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“Sobrang hirap pero I know na si God, hindi naman ako pinababayaan. Nabuhay pa rin ako kasi nag-50-50 ako, nasa ICU ako for a week tapos dialysis ako. Buti na lang at nandoon ‘yung support ng wife ko, family ako, at nag-chip in ‘yung mga friends ko na dumalaw. Happy pa rin ako kasi buhay pa rin,” said Banal.

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Since lupus is a lifetime deficiency, Banal, who technically is a person with disability (PWD) due to the sickness, still needed to take medications including steroids for his immune system. But his condition continuous to improve as he now only takes five medicines daily, instead of 20 during the start of his recovery.

Although he is no longer allowed to play competitive basketball, Banal said the blessings kept on coming for him, including roles of team manager for the Rizal Crusaders-Xentro Mall in the MPBL while continuing to be the assistant coach with Marinerong Pilipino. He is also allowed to play basketball but only for exercise and recreation.

“At least, in line sa basketball pa rin. Medyo masaya ako, hindi ako down kasi sobrang love ko ‘yung sport. Unitl now, nagba-basketball ako, exercise, hanggang ngayon, nagwo-workout ako. Siyempre, hindi na katulad ng dati pero happy ako basta nakakatakbo ako at naglalaro,” said Banal.

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As he takes on his first head-coaching job with the Navy in the WNBL, Banal, a former Navyman himself, considers his father and uncle and fellow Mapua coaches Chito Victolero, Bong Ramos, Yong Garcia, and Randy Alcantara, as well as Boycie Zamar as his mentors.

“Dati kasi akong enlisted sa Navy, kami nila James Mangahas at Tata Bautista. Since dati naman akong Navy, ni-refer ako. Kinuha ko kasi big chance para sa akin. Malaking opportunity na mapakita ko ‘yung coaching skills ko at ma-follow ‘yung footsteps ng papa ko at tito ko,” said Banal.

“Gusto ko ‘yung pagiging coach eh. Gusto ko i-follow ‘yung footsteps ng father ko at uncle ko at mga mentors ko. Nakaka-stress pero love mo ‘yung basketball kaya lahat gagawin ko para sa job na ‘yun,” said Banal.

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PHOTO: Reuben Terrado
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